By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON Plenty of connections between Tim Thomas, Dwayne Roloson and Marty St. Louis as the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning get ready to jump into the Eastern Conference Finals.
St. Louis sat next to Roloson at the TD Garden podium on Friday afternoon and jokingly thanked the former University of Lowell goaltender for discouraging Thomas from playing college hockey at Lowell and instead pushing the Vezina Trophy winner toward the University of Vermont where Thomas and St. Louis put on a show for four years at the Burlington campus.
Marty is one of the greatest competitors Ive ever played with and Ive ever seen play, said Thomas. You know its unfortunate that we have to play against each other. Thats the way it works out, though. I couldnt have more respect for a person as a player and as a human being than I do for Marty.
Both St. Louis and Thomas had to struggle through the minor leagues and get bounced around early in their hockey careers before developing with the Lightning and Bruins respectively and both former college teammates have remained close while getting to hang out at All-Star games and other NHL events.
But the ultra-competitive St. Louis fires up the engine for the Lightning attack, and carefully complimented his friend while also making it very clear that Tampa Bay was coming to Boston for business.
I'm proud of where Timmy has gone with his career obviously, what he did, how he battled to be where he is today. He's earned every ounce of recognition he's getting. Obviously he's on the other side right now, said St. Louis. We're both trying to get to the same place. We've talked about it a lot this week, the University of Vermont connection, whatnot. But the bottom line is we're both here to do our job and to play the best we can to help our team win. I haven't talked to Timmy or anything. We'll probably talk when we shake hands.
Roloson has undergone the same kind of battles to be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL after getting set adrift by the Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres organizations early in his pro career, and the 41-year-old espoused the benefits of experience in the arena of goaltending a market that Thomas and the Lightning goalie have cornered with 78 years between the two of them in the closest thing the Stanley Cup playoffs will have to a senior citizen matchup.
I think it's very valuable. You can be thrown into almost any situation and can look back and say, Yeah, I can relate to this, or, Yeah, I've been through this before, said Roloson of the things hes learned through 20 years of pro hockey and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. I think when you are going through adversity, especially during playoff time, you can look back and say, Yeah, okay, don't worry about it, this is how it's going to happen, play out. You can deal with it and understand what's going to happen, not lose focus on your task at hand, and that's winning hockey games.
Similarly, 37-year-old Thomas bristles at the mention of his age as a potential detractor from his game, and instead believes like a bottle of fine wine from a Flint, Michigan vineyard that he simply gets better with age. Its hard to argue with it when the Bs goaltender set an NHL record with a .938 save percentage this season while leading the Bruins through one of the best seasons in the modern era of goaltending.
Thomas feels comfortable enough in his age to admit that Roloson was a guy he really admired when he was backing up Dominik Hasek with the Sabres, and biding his time to secure that elusive starting NHL starting spot.
Thomas and Roloson also played against each other once in college when the UVM club destroyed Rolosons Lowell team during his senior year and again in Finland during the lockout when once again Thomas team took it to Rolosons lesser European club. Through all of that Thomas kept the same warm feelings for a goalie that blazed a little bit of a trail for him over the years.
In a roundabout way, when I wasn't in the NHL, I was looking at Dwayne Roloson. He made it to the NHL, I don't know how long it took him after he got out of college, but he really had to work his way up before he got those number one jobs, he was a backup to Hasek, said Thomas. He was a backup in a couple places, had to work his way up the ladder. I saw that he was doing it. Seeing other stories like that, we were in the situation I was in, it's something that can give you hope.
There are plenty of storylines, but the inter-connected worlds of Thomas, Roloson and St. Louis could prove to be really interesting once the competitive juices start flowing a little bit in this series.
Boston's David Krejci was watching Game 7 of the Red Wings and Sharks on Thursday night, but he wasnt listening to the broadcast at the time. So he didnt hear Versus Network analyst Pierre McGuire compare the Czech Republic center favorably with Detroit pivot Pavel Datsyuk as he nearly single-handedly helped his Motown hockey to victory despite a bum wrist.
Datsyuk had an amazing postseason and has been an All-Star, Selke and Lady Byng Trophy winner during his career, and Krejci was both flattered and flabbergasted by the comparisons to the 32-year-old Russian superstar. Datsyuk has a couple of 90-point seasons and 651 career points in 662 games, and Krejci knows that the numbers and the magic puck control he has on his stick are some skills that are pretty unique for Datsyuk above and beyond everyone else.
The guys told me it. Obviously its nice, but theres only one Pavel Datsyuk, said Krejci. There is no one like him and there will never ever be anyone like him. There might be bigger guys and faster guys, but the puck skills and the moves he does theres just no one. Hes unbelievable.
I take it as a compliment. Its nice to be hear somebody say oh yeah, hes similar. But its like people back home and what they say about Jaromir Jagr. Theres only one and there will never be another one.
Fifteen of 19 skaters who have hit the ice for the Bruins in this years playoffs have a positive plusminus rating. Zdeno Chara, who led the league in plusminus during the regular season with a mark of plus-33, leads all playoff skaters with a rating of plus-11.
Courtesy of Bruins media relations maestro Eric Tosi, heres a rundown of each and every Bruins player thats won the late-80s Chalkline Bruins jacket passed out to the Bs player of the game since an April 22 game against the New Jersey Devils. The player then wears the jacket in the locker room during the media access period and hangs it in his stall until the teams next win. After the next win, he will select a different teammate to pass it along to. Here is the tally thus far:
322 vs. NJ: Milan Lucic
324 vs. MTL: Zdeno Chara
327 at PHI: Tim Thomas
329 vs. CHI: Mark Recchi
42 vs. ATL: Tuukka Rask
46 vs. NYI: Daniel Paille
49 vs. OTT: Rich Peverley
418 at MTL, Game 3: Patrice Bergeron
421 at MTL, Game 4: Michael Ryder
423 vs. MTL, Game 5: Tim Thomas
427 vs. MTL, Game 7: Nathan Horton
430 at PHI, Game 1: David Krejci
52 at PHI, Game 2: Tim Thomas
54 vs. PHI, Game 3: Dennis Seidenberg
56 vs. PHI, Game 4: Milan Lucic
Pavel Kubina was not on the ice for Tampas Friday afternoon skate at TD Garden and the big Lightning defenseman didnt make the trip with the team to Boston meaning he wont be available for Game 1 or Game 2. For a team thats already pretty shallow in terms of its defensemen depth, that just makes the picture even murkier.
There have been plenty of separated at birth guesses for Tampa Bay Lightning Dwayne Roloson as he definitely looks similar to several famous long-haired people out there, but Im going with Roloson as a Steve Nash look-a-like. The resemblance is uncanny between those two, and even better theyre both Canadian.
Guy Boucher regaled the media with his thoughtful, interesting answers to a host of questions, and continued a reverse-psychology tack when it comes to getting pucks past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and perhaps motivating his own forwards at the same time by giving them little shot of beating the Vezina Trophy favorite. Here was Bouchers deep thought for Friday when asked about Thomas between the pipes.
"The reality is whatever we have planned for Tim Thomas he's probably going to figure it out, said Boucher. It's in our heads. Make no mistake about that.